Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Motive for Metaphor

In a post added to this site last Tuesday, Dr. Hada cited Northrop Frye's The Educated Imagination (Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 1964) as the first text that came to his mind when considering the 3-Text Challenge. I just found an online copy of "The Motive for Metaphor," the first chapter of that text. Here's the first paragraph of that chapter (and that's Professor Frye on the left):

"For the past twenty-five years I have been teaching and studying English literature in a university. As in my other job, certain questions stick in one's mind, not because people keep asking them, but because they're the questions inspired by the very fact of being in such a place, What good is the study of literature? Does it help us to think more clearly, or feel more sensitively, or live a better life than we could without it? What is the function of the teacher and scholar, or of the person who calls himself, as I do, a literary critic? What difference does the study of literature make in our social or political or religious attitude? In my early days I thought very little about such questions, not because I had any of the answers, but because I assumed that anybody who asked them was naive. I think now that the simplest questions are not only the hardest to answer, but the most important to ask, so I'm going to raise them and try to suggest what my present answers are, I say try to suggest, because there are only more or less inadequate answers to such questions—there aren't any right answers. The kind of problem that literature raises is not the kind that you ever "solve." Whether my answers are any good or not, they represent a fair amount of thinking about the questions."

If you'd like to read the rest of the chapter online, click here.

And if you'd like to own a copy of the book, click here.

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